HK Magazine - - CULTURE -

HK Mag­a­zine: What are you show­ing in this char­ity ex­hi­bi­tion?

Water Poon: There are three dif­fer­ent re­cur­ring im­ages in this ex­hi­bi­tion. The first is of a big gourd, a fruit. The sec­ond one is a lo­tus leaf and a spar­row, and the third col­lec­tion is a se­ries that de­picts houses in Guilin, a pop­u­lar place for ink artists in China.

HK: How is your style dis­tinct from other Chi­nese ink artists?

WP: A lot of artists are also in­spired by the Guilin land­scape, but I like to draw in a con­tem­po­rary style. Be­ing a con­tem­po­rary ink artist means pay­ing homage to and ref­er­enc­ing pre­vi­ous styles, but find­ing in­no­va­tions. There are oth­ers who are al­ways try­ing to paint the same flow­ers, but I try to di­ver­sify my style. The blue in this se­ries, “At Home,” is ac­tu­ally in­spired by early morn­ing in Guilin, be­fore sun­rise—it’s unique to my ex­pe­ri­ence. And peo­ple who paint Guilin will not of­ten paint this kind of house: They’re be­com­ing more rare and will soon be de­mol­ished. Artist has been prac­tis­ing the art of Chi­nese ink paint­ing in Hong Kong and be­yond for al­most half a cen­tury. For his cur­rent char­ity ex­hi­bi­tion, 10 per­cent of the pro­ceeds of works sold will be do­nated to the Faith in Love Foundation, which works to al­le­vi­ate poverty. He tells Jes­sica Wei about the art of Chi­nese ink paint­ing. HK: What should peo­ple who don’t know much about ink paint­ing look for in a piece of work?

WP: There are sev­eral im­por­tant points to ink paint­ing. One thing is the use of line, which usu­ally falls into two groups: Some peo­ple paint with very pre­cise de­tails and fine lines, par­tic­u­larly with paint­ings in­spired by na­ture; oth­ers, like me, are more ab­stract. The other im­por­tant thing to no­tice is the den­sity of paint. Artists in tra­di­tional ink paint­ing say that there are seven dif­fer­ent shades you can ren­der out of black, from dark to light. With ink paint­ing, you don’t even need color at all. You can ex­press what you want only in shades of black and white.

There is, how­ever, only one shade of red.

HK: One shade of red?

WP: Yes, it’s the stamp! An­other em­pha­sis of Chi­nese ink paint­ing is the neg­a­tive space on the art­work. For ex­am­ple, in a paint­ing of fish, you will feel the fish nat­u­rally swim­ming around the can­vas. It’s not nec­es­sary to paint the water. In an­other ink paint­ing of birds sit­ting on a branch, you can feel the sky be­hind these birds, through the white space and per­spec­tive.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I will put on the page. And then it takes me about an hour to paint. But I have to think about it, shape it in my mind first. Un­like West­ern paint­ing, we never sketch what we’re go­ing to paint—ev­ery stroke is de­lib­er­ate, and if I make a sin­gle mis­take I have to start over. Ev­ery move­ment of the stroke ex­presses a feel­ing.

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